Published on: 15/04/2020
This article was co-written with Shiny Saha (IRC India)
Holistic planning is an absolute must to ensure sustainable services. Therefore, for sustainable water and sanitation services, it is important to plan for water supply and toilet construction, as well as water security, and solid and liquid waste management. This was stated by Mr. Suresh Paswan, the District Panchayati Raj Officer of Ujiarpur block, in Samastipur district, Bihar during the district sharing and validation workshop on budget tracking. The workshop, held on 25 February 2020 was organised as part of the Watershed programme, by Nidan (landscape partner in Bihar), Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (technical partner) and IRC. The workshop saw participation of community members, Ward Implementation and Management Committee (WIMC) members, elected village council representatives, government officials and civil society organisation representatives.
Mr. Paswan’s statement is indeed relevant in the context of Bihar, where the state government has taken strides in holistic planning. In 2016, the government of Bihar, as part of the Chief Minister’s Saat Nishchay or seven resolve programme, launched two schemes – the provision of piped drinking water to every household (Har Ghar Nal ka Jal), and connecting every household to drainage (Ghar Tak Pakki Gali Naaliyan). Subsequently, in 2019 the state government launched Jal Jeevan Hariyali Abhiyan, a programme focusing on water security through renovation of public water sources (ponds, lakes, reservoirs, etc.), water harvesting and improving agricultural practices. Through these three initiatives - source security, service provision and waste management - the state government has used a holistic approach to address sustainability of water services.
The challenge, however, remains in the difference between initiatives on paper and implementation of the same on the ground. These challenges, as was reported in the workshop, stem from lack of information, capacities, transparency, and more. The ensuing discussion at the workshop was useful to bring to the fore some solutions to address the stated challenges, which have been listed below:
i. Communication to the communities – why, how much, where will it be used, how can they track this
ii. Mechanism of collection of tariffs – who, when, what if not paid
iii. Maintenance and transparency of accounts of tariffs collected
To ensure that water and sanitation services reach all in a sustainable manner, it is crucial that local governance and management are strengthened – to hold the block administration, the line department accountable as well as be accountable to the citizens that voted it in to power . Platforms like the village meetings are useful platforms for democratic and participatory processes. However, ensuring effective use of such platforms is an equal responsibility of the elected representatives as is that of the citizens.